April 15, 2015
3 min read

Two-thirds of patients with invasive cancer likely to survive 5 years

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Two out of three people diagnosed with invasive cancer survive at least 5 years, according to data published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

However, survival varied according to cancer type, age at diagnosis and race, results showed.

“We are pleased to include cancer survivor data in this report for the first time,” Jane Henley, MSPH, of the division of cancer prevention and control at the CDC, said in a press release. “We will review these data annually to track our progress.”

Survival differences

Henley and colleagues evaluated 2011 data from U.S. Cancer Statistics (USCS), which contains official federal statistics on cancer incidence from the National Program of Cancer Registries and the SEER program, in addition to mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System.

More than 1.5 million invasive cancers were reported to U.S. cancer registries in 2011 (excluding Nevada), for an annual incidence rate of 451 cases per 100,000 individuals.

The most common cancer sites — which accounted for 50% of all newly diagnosed cancer cases in 2011 — were the prostate (128 per 100,000 men), female breast (122 per 100,000 women), lung and bronchus (61 per 100,000 individuals), and colon and rectum (40 per 100,000 individuals). The rate for invasive cervical cancer incidence was 7.5 cases per 100,000 women.

The 5-year relative survival rate for patients diagnosed with cancer between 2003 and 2010 was 65%.  Five-year relative survival rates were highest for prostate cancer (97%) and breast cancer (88%) and lowest for lung cancer (18%). The five-year survival rate was 63% for colorectal cancer and 68% for women with cervical cancer.

Five-year survival rates were highest among patients who were aged younger than 45 years at diagnosis (81%). The survival rate then declined with age, falling to 52% for those aged 75 years or older at diagnosis.

Overall, researchers reported the same 5-year survival rate (65%) for men and women. Non-Hispanic white patients had higher 5-year survival rates than black patients (men, 65% vs. 62%; women, 66% vs. 57%).

Relative survival rates were only calculable for black and non-Hispanic white patients because accurate life tables were not available for other races or ethnic groups, according to researchers.

“Differences in survival after cancer diagnosis might be attributable to differences in type of cancer, stage at diagnosis, timeliness of follow-up after diagnosis, appropriate treatment after diagnosis or having a chronic condition,” Henley and colleagues wrote. “Cancer itself is considered a chronic condition, and many survivors face physical, psychological, social, spiritual and economic challenges because of their cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

Healthy People 2020

The report also provided an update on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Healthy People 2020 initiatives. Goals for this program include reaching a 71.7% 5-year cancer survival rate, reducing colorectal cancer incidence to 41.6 cases per 100,000 persons, reducing late-stage breast cancer incidence to 38.9 cases per 100,000 persons and reducing cervical cancer incidence to 7.5 cases per 100,000 women.

Thirty-seven states achieved the reduced colorectal cancer incidence target and 28 states achieved the cervical cancer target.

“These data are an important reminder that a key to surviving cancer is making sure everyone has access to care from early diagnosis to treatment,” Lisa Richardson, MD, director of the division of cancer prevention and control at the CDC, said in a press release. “The early detection of colorectal cancer has had the largest impact on long-term survival rates.”

Survival data can assist the planning and implementation of cancer prevention, screening and treatment programs, researchers wrote. For example, a pilot program for skin cancer prevention was launched in two Vermont counties shown in cancer registry data to have a particularly high melanoma incidence.

“National cancer surveillance data are essential for public health officials to monitor cancer incidence, mortality and survival in the United States; identify populations that might benefit most from targeted cancer prevention and control efforts; help guide the planning of health care allocation and support services; and track progress toward the national cancer objectives set forth in Healthy People 2020,” Henley and colleagues concluded. – by Cameron Kelsall

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.